“Pretending” A Skill That Can Be Aquired

Nadia Shanab | Uncategorized
17 Feb 2013


A problem on a Math worksheet asks students to draw a rectangle with dimensions larger than the regular paper dimensions. The directions give the length and the width of 2 sides (20 inches by 15 inches). Studnets were asked to find the length of the other 2 sides. Which are understandablely the same as the given ones. A high-functioning student with autism asked for a ruler. I told her that it was not needed to use a ruler. I simply asked her to draw any rectangle and put the length and width of the missing sides.

The student insisted on drawing the rectangle with real dimensions. The result was that there was not enough room on the paper. She got so frustrated. I told her: “Let me help you.” I drew a small rectangle that fits next to the question, and wrote the two given dimensions. Then I asked her to write the dimensions of the other two sides.

Her response was immediate. She took my red pen and wrote: “Not True” inside the rectange that I’ve just drawn. She told me: “Measure it, your rectangle is wrong.” The student knew the answer to the question, but couldn’t accept the concept of drawing a hypothetical rectangle. She didn’t have the skill to pretend, or imagine a rectangle drawn to scale. The purpose of the question was to teach students that rectangles have the opposing sides of the same dimensions.

I insisted on drawing several rectangles with gigantic dimensions in miles and kilometer and asked her to write the dimensions and the lables/units (miles, kilometers). She ended up doing it. It is not a problem anymore.

It takes a lot of practice. Playing is an amazing fun way to teach pretending. Use toys, stuffed animals, real objects… and have your child/student play with siblings/classmates. That would teach the child that not all we do or say is real, but it is rather like a movie.

Patience, practice, and perspective taking are the key to solve so many problems. Never give up. Keep going.

Children with autism are teachable and trainable.

nadia shanab

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